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WHAT IS AGENT ORANGE?
Agent Orange was a herbicide. For nine years the American military sprayed Agent Orange and other herbicides over Vietnam to destroy food crops and clear away the forest. Over the nine years maybe four million Vietnamese civilians and soldiers were exposed to the spraying along with just about all of the nearly 3 million American soldiers who passed through Vietnam during that time.
But Agent Orange, it has turned out, was contaminated with dioxin, a toxic chemical associated with various cancers, diabetes, skin and nerve disorders, birth defects and disabilities in later generations. This is a current problem. As you know, our veterans are affected. The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates that direct or indirect exposure to dioxin has badly impacted the health of up to three million Vietnamese. That includes about 150,000 of today’s children.
Who created Agent Orange?
Agent Orange was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical. It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides".
Is the spraying of Agent Orange considered a war crime?
The Environmental Modification Convention, put into effect in after the end of the Vietnam War, prohibits the military to use techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects on the environment. However, many do not regard this convention as a complete ban on the use of herbicides and defoliants in warfare. Instead, the convention must analyze each isolated case and determine if it breaks the convention or not.
Also, in the Geneva Disarmament Convention of 1978, Article 2 Protocol III states "The Jungle Exception", which prohibits states from attacking forests or jungles" except if such natural elements are used to cover, conceal or camouflage combatants or military objectives or are military objectives themselves." This voids any protection of any military or civilians from a napalm attack or something like Agent Orange and is clear that it was designed to cater to situations like U.S. tactics in Vietnam.
Is there anything being done to cleanup the contamination of dioxin in Vietnam?
On the 9th of August 2012, the United States and Vietnam began a cooperative clean up of the toxic chemical on part of Danang International Airport, marking the first time Washington has been involved in cleaning up Agent Orange in Vietnam. Danang was the primary storage site of the chemical. Two other cleanup sites the United States and Vietnam are looking at is Biên Hòa, in the southern province of Dong Nai - a "hotspot" for dioxin - and Phù Cát airport in the central province of Bình Dinh. According to the Vietnamese newspaper Nhân Dân, the U.S. government provided $41 million to the project, which will reduce the contamination level in 73,000 m³ of soil by late 2016. The U.S. nor the chemical companies involved admit that deformities and health issues were caused by the spraying of Agent Orange.
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